In Pursuit of the Perfect Peach: Consumer-assisted Selection of Peach Fruit Traits
Olmstead, M.A.; Gilbert, J.L.; Colquhoun, T.A.; Clark, D.G.; Kluson, R.; Moskowitz, H.R.
HortScience 50(8): 1202-1212
Despite production of the first domestically produced peach of the calendar year in the United States, the subtropical peach industry faces marketing challenges, particularly with small fruit size. Although important, size is only one aspect of fruit quality, and not inclusive of all possible fruit quality attributes. Thus, this research asked consumers to identify an "ideal" peach given a combination of possible peach fruit quality attributes to help determine their influence on consumer purchase. These attributes were verified with farmers' market intercept studies. The top attributes that fostered purchase likelihood included flavor, texture, size, and firmness. Psychophysics studies showed that consumers preferred peaches that were sweet, juicy, round, with freestone or semifreestone characteristics, whereas consumers were less likely to purchase peaches with mealy, dry, or meaty textures. Young consumers (ages 18-24) preferred crisp, firm peaches with good flavor, whereas older consumers (ages 51-65) preferred sweet, melting-texture peaches. Farmers' market intercept studies found consumers (ages 45-65) preferred melting-texture peaches with good flavor that led to increased overall liking. In addition, in the farmers' market studies, aroma and flavor were important attributes and were highly correlated with overall liking. Objective measurements of total soluble solids (TSS) were not correlated with overall liking, indicating that although the nationwide experiment found consumers desired sweet peaches, other attributes may contribute more favorably to overall liking.